Tag Archives: socialnetworking

facebook is out for blood

A New York nonprofit, Takes All Types, has announced a new program that will mobilize blood donors through Facebook, The New York Times reports.

For those who opt in, the system will send out alerts through Facebook — as well as by phone, fax, e-mail and text message — when their blood type is needed in their area. It will also send out reminders for regular donations.

The new Facebook app will allow both donors and blood drive centers to register and send and receive alerts about blood donation needs in their geographic region.

The program’s creators, Ben Bergman and Richard Hecker, say that they were able to coordinate the project on short cash, by garnering support from interested developers, PR professionals, and hospitals.

The whole thing was done in about three months, for about $500,” Mr. Bergman said.

The announcement comes on the heels of a keynote interview at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, during which Zuckerberg responded to calls to open up messaging on the massively popular social networking site.

Some users have expressed frustration at the “walled garden” nature of Facebook, which features a messaging system that sends users emails and texts to alert users that they have received a message, but which then requires the user to log in to Facebook to read the content of the message.

Any app that relies on messaging users outside of the Facebook walled garden might encounter some resistance (or at least barriers to use) until Facebook improves its messaging system, especially an app, like this one from Takes All Types, that targets the growing segment of Facebook users ages 35 and up, who might not spend as much time on their profile pages as their younger counterparts.

Many-to-many messaging systems like Twitter would seem better suited to this sort of real-time user mobilization — except, of course, for the fact of Facebook’s 65 million plus users, compared with Twitter’s 940,000.

Oh yeah. Except for that part.

Expect to see more small, unknown nonprofits (and even purpose-built ones, as this one seems to be) taking the lead in using social networking to mobilize supporters and activists. The larger, established nonprofits with similar missions might be too slow-moving at first to either envision or implement these opportunities.

state of the debate: build or join

Brian Oberkirk’s recently posted advice to brands considering launching their own social networks (in short: don’t) has made the rounds in the nonprofit technology blogosphere, mostly thanks to the incredibly useful nptech tag (add this to your RSS feed now if you want to follow other practitioners and thinkers in this field).

It’s another volley in the ongoing debate over brands (companies, organizations, nonprofits, membership groups, etc.) building their own versus joining an existing social network.

I weighed in on this topic (twice) back in November, when I suggested that it depends on what your organization’s most pressing goals are, but that a good starting strategy for many groups would be to test the waters of existing social networks by trying to achieve one or two simple, quantifiable goals. Then you can decide from there how to proceed.

I even created a couple of decision trees (with help from Beth Kanter and Kevin Gamble) to help think through this decision.

Jeremiah Owyang delves deeply into this question on his blog, most recently in the form of an audio podcast in which he debates the question with colleagues Ted Shelton and Chris Heuer, both of The Conversation Group, and Brian Oberkirk.

Beth Kanter also recently touched on this question of Build or Join in her recent interview with Jonathan Coleman, Associate Director of Digital Marketing for The Nature Conservancy. Jonathan says:

…another principle strategy of ours {is} connecting with people where they are rather than making {them} find us. Like many organizations, we used to be under the false impression that “if you build it, they will come.” But nowadays, we’ve come to think different about how we conduct outreach. Rather than force people to come to our site and remember another username and password, we’re happy to find them where they’re already engaged and introduce them to the Conservancy in venues of their choice.

Just like with any venture into new technology, nonprofits need to think carefully about what resources they have available to dedicate to implementing a social networking strategy. Whether you build or join, it’s a commitment to maintaining a meaningful presence in your online community. The rewards can be great, but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that it won’t take time, money, and care.

Fortunately, there are some very smart people out there who can help. I’ve linked to several of them in this post — who else has something compelling to say on the subject these days? What’s your latest thinking on the subject?

dear diary: a travelogue for social media

Beth Kanter recently posted on the importance of outcome-based thinking for nonprofits getting involved in social media, and, with Alex de Carvalho, generated a great list of ways to address some of the challenges presented by social media. I’m just going to pull two items out of this list and expand on the theme a bit:

Discuss and set objectives at the outset, and not just quantitative objectives. Figure out what is measurable and be sure to include the systems to track progress. If systems to track qualitative results are not in place, then keep a journal and also be sure to share positive and negative feedback from customers with the organization.

Determine goals first and break them out into short-, medium- and long-term. Don’t get into social media if you’re not planning to stick with it over the long-term.

Objectives and outcomes have to come first. You don’t set out on a trip without knowing your destination — this is the same thing.

Think of it as a journey, and decide where it is you want to go. Then choose the right tool for the job. A day trip to the next city over calls for a car or a bus, whereas a trip across the country with several different stops will call for a more layered approach, involving planes, buses, taxis, public transportation, and yes, even walking.

Once you’ve chosen your tools, picture what success will look like. Include both quantitative and qualitative measurements.

I love Alex’s idea of keeping a journal to track qualitative results as time goes by. This method emphasizes the fact that you will not just be measuring results at the end of the trip, but all along the way as well. So keep a journal on your trip, and encourage any staff involved to contribute. Maybe a nice, inside-the-firewall blog with multiple authors would do the trick.

Think about it for the long haul. Put systems in place for the continuation of your social media use that don’t depend on certain people remaining on staff — add these skills to that person’s job description so that their successors will be chosen wisely, and so that the project doesn’t get dropped when staff changes occur.

This point also backs up why it is important to define your goals and objectives at the outset — what if there is a complete staff turnover at your nonprofit during the course of your social media journey? How will the new staff, board, executive director, understand why you started down this path in the first place?

Document your goals, strategies, milestones, and measurement plans so that your organization maintains a depth of institutional memory about the project. Nonprofits have a famously high staff turnover rate — accept this possibility as a likelihood.

Beth is right –there is a lot in Alex’s list to unpack and discuss how it applies to nonprofits. I’ve looked at two points — what do you have to say?

Good2Go

“When you read about “bad,” you want to be able to “do good.”

A new service was brought to my attention recently. It’s called Good2Gether, and it looks mighty interesting. (edited Monday February 4 – see below)

good2gether is a new search and social media Web service that connects people to causes through a broad network of websites.

Apparently, it allows nonprofits to enter information about their mission, events, goals, and needs (volunteers, donors, activists, etc.). Then it feeds this information into an array of media partners online, including traditional media presences online, like the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle (more to be announced, they say, in Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and New York), and links readers to social networking sites (i.e., save this event to Facebook, to my calendar, etc.).

So the idea, apparently, is that your information/need/call for action goes into a sidebar, alongside of related news stories on these distributed media websites.

good2gether offers us a new media platform to provide life saving messages in a place that people already go for news and information – the Web site of their local newspaper.”

Gary Ellis, Chairman, American Heart Association

It’s free for the nonprofit, and provides the media partner with some relevant, local, community-oriented content that also lends them that zesty philanthropic flair everyone enjoys having so much.

Quite a lot of Boston nonprofits have already signed on, apparently, despite not knowing who the media partner in Boston is going to be. It’s due to launch in Boston sometime in April 2008.

What are the risks?

1. Well, what comes to mind is how to verify that an organization is legit. Will they require nonprofits to supply their Federal ID number? What about a link to some sort of charity watchdog or ranking website? This sort of set-up seems like it could be very appealing to scammers, so how will readers be assured that the nonprofits are what they say they are?

2. Nonprofits will want to know that their events, their logo, their brand, will not inadvertently be listed alongside of a news story that is unappealing to their message in some way. What is the algorithm that determines content placement? What sort of human monitoring system is in place? How can participating nonprofits monitor their own content placement, and archive it for future use (besides screen captures).

3. How much time will it take to maintain this? How much control does a nonprofit have over its own content, once posted? How do old events get cycled out of distribution? How can nonprofits edit events that are already posted and distributed?

What are your thoughts on this? Is Good2Gether Good2Go?

***Update***

Greg McHale, CEO of Good2Gether, was nice enough to give me a personal walk-through of the project tonight, so I’ve now got some answers and clarifications. Here’s a quick run-down of the points I found most interesting:

User (Nonprofit) Interface

  1. The user interface (the part that the nonprofit uses to enter information) is as simple to use as an online calendar submission interface. Type stuff in boxes.
  2. Nonprofits get a pretty robust dashboard with traffic stats and referrers.
  3. Event management is intuitive. Events cycle offline automatically, but the listing remains on your dashboard so you can change the dates and upload the event again when it happens again.

User (Individual) Interface

  1. Once the end-user clicks on a listing, they go to a “channel” page, where they find all the information they could want about different ways they can get involved in the nonprofit.
  2. Decide you’re not interested in that nonprofit after all? You can search for other events and volunteer opportunities by keyword or category.

Miscellaneous

  1. Nonprofits can post the logos and live links of their sponsors on their “channel” pages. Sponsors get ad space online – locally and more widely distributed through the media partners – by supporting a local nonprofit. This could be a useful selling point when nonprofits are signing sponsors on as supporters.

Risks

  1. Nonprofits will be screened by hand during the initial phase of the project, but then will be edited by the community of users via a “report objectionable content” option. While this will work to screen out obvious offenders, it may be far less effective in screening out more thoughtful scams. What’s to prevent some scammer from posing as a nonprofit, placing some sham events on a channel page, and then asking for donations for a popular cause like disaster relief? I think they might need to be more vigilant on this front and require some form of validation, like a Federal ID number from nonprofits, to prove they are a 501 C3 organization (and validate these Federal ID numbers against Guidestar or something similar) before allowing a nonprofit to use the system. It will only take one scam, one falsified listing and fraudulent donation request, to bring this all down via questionable reputation alone. The public is very good at tarring an entire organization (MySpace, etc.) with an unfairly broad brush just because a small percent of its population is untrustworthy.

Summary

This system looks like it was well thought out, it looks well designed, and it looks like a good business plan from my far-off vantage point. It’s free for nonprofits, they get to list their events and promote their local sponsors to fresh, tech-savvy audiences. Media partners are the ones who pony up money, but they get something they want too: hyper-local content with that Do-Good flair. They may have some serious unaddressed risk in the policing of nonprofits who list, but this can be addressed relatively simply through making the registration process more rigorous. It launches in April. I look forward to watching its progress.

So again: what do you think? Would YOU list your organization’s events on Good2Gether?

unintended consequences – the good kind

Nonprofits all around us are making decisions RIGHT NOW about how to engage in social networks, and many of us in the field have to fight a desperate feeling of running hard just to keep up – the overwhelming conviction that everybody else is winning friends, donors, hearts and minds through the savvy use of social networking sites, and that we are MISSING OUT.

This impels us to hurry into building a profile on FaceBook or MySpace or whatever other site presents itself to us, and then we either hover anxiously around the computer with bated breath, wondering when the scores of users will find us and friend us (anyone who has compulsively checked their blog stats will know how this feels) OR ignore it for a couple of months, check back, find no activity (or only spammy activity – hi Tom from MySpace!), and shrug in disgust and say it was all a bad idea anyway.

It is not, necessarily, a bad idea anyway.  What is certainly a bad idea is rushing into things without a plan. 

What are you trying to accomplish?  How will you define success?  How will you measure success?  How will you justify your investment of time and resources to your governing board, your executive director, your co-workers?

A couple of weeks ago, I created and posted two logic models to help people– myself included — think through two basic decisions:

  1. Should my organization use a Social Networking Site?
  2. Should my organization use a custom or an existing Social Networking Site?

I posted them on Beth Kanter’s wiki for social media metrics and several people chimed in to flesh out and improve the documents.  If you are wrestling with these issues, I highly recommend taking a gander — not just at the logic models, but at Beth’s whole wiki.  It’s a great compendium on how to measure and plan your social media strategy.

I am fascinated by the issues that have come up over the past few months while I’ve been exploring this subject.  Done right, the creation of a social media strategy is a hugely valuable exercise that makes you think very critically about things like:

  • Who is our natural constituency?
  • Of that consistuency, who are we effectively reaching WITHOUT social networks?
  • Why?
  • Of that consistuency, who are we NOT reaching without social networks?
  • Why?
  • Is this group(s) currently using existing social networks?
  • Are they likely to within 1 to 3 years?
  • Who might lie just outside of what we think of as our “natural constituency” that might be reached on social networking sites?

I’m particularly interested in this last one, lately.  I have found that social networking sites are endless sources of surprise and counter-intuitive revelation. 

I believe that nonprofits should plan their engagement in social networks, certainly, based on what they already know.

But I also believe that nonprofits should allow themselves to be surprised – wrong, even – about who might be interested in them, their work, and their mission. 

That sometimes, the law of unintended consequences brings us GOOD things. 

Sometimes it seems like my personal involvement in social networks does nothing but bring me beautiful little surprises: new friends, new ideas, new opportunities… 

Of course, there was that beautiful little surprise when I got my first post-twitter cell phone bill — and realized I had forgotten to up my SMS allowance in time…

But I digress.

As the wikipedia entry for unintended consequences says, when it’s good, it’s serendipity.  When it’s bad, it’s just perverse.

And speaking of serendipity, I noticed Jeremiah’s post last week about his upcoming webinar titled Your Social Networking Strategy: Join or Build?  and rather than spend too much time thinking about how he has clearly been reading my mail and rooting through my dustbin, I decided I would throw caution to the winds and enroll.

Here are some of the burning thoughts that I will be bringing with me to the webinar:

  • How can nonprofits use existing social networks to reach new markets?
  • How can membership organizations translate “friends” into “members?”
  • How can membership organizations reach their current members on MyFace?
  • How can a “built” social network (white label, self-hosted) avoid becoming yet another silo?  How can it be built mindfully, leaving the door open for integration with existing or new social networks?

Not that I expect Jeremiah to answer all those questions.  Just: that’s where my head is right now.

Of course, the webinar isn’t until December 17.  But by then we’ll probably have this all sorted out.  Right?